The war in Syria is also an Israeli concern and its results may be as dangerous as the October 1973 war.
The fall of Bashar al-Assad’s regime can change the map and may perhaps threaten the existing balance of power formulated after the disengagement agreement signed by President Hafez al-Assad and Israel under Henry Kissinger’s auspices during the October war.
Syria is the second largest adjacent country to Israel after Egypt, and despite the Golan’s stability, Syria is the only country that did not sign a peace treaty – on the grounds that Lebanon was a part of the Syrian decision – and the only country to be seriously armed with chemical and biological weapons.
During the revolution’s first year, Israelis did not believe that al-Assad’s tough regime would collapse. However, since early last year, Israelis started to believe that al-Assad’s fall is inevitable. With al-Assad downfall, Israelis will lose a “wise enemy” and a loyal guard, but their fear is as strong as their growing appetite to influence the final result.
With the fall of Bashar al-Assad, Israel fears the unknown, and it is certainly one of the main parties that are monitoring what is happening on the war fronts in Syria on a daily basis. The Israeli concerns are justified and expected, unless it went too far and sought or helped redraw the Syrian map. I do not think that it would be erroneous to say that Israel supports the idea of establishing an Allawite state that al-Assad is preparing in the Mediterranean coast, or many other mini-states in Syria. Israel does not care about the civil war inside Syria, but rather, encourages it.
The war between the Syrian brothers is expected even if al-Assad tries to fragment the country and takes over a region. Israel is always attracted to the preoccupation of its Arab neighbors in civil wars, and it is surely interested in dismantling Syria into small Kurdish, Allawite, Christian, Druze and Sunni mini-states. But isn’t Israel afraid of al-Qaeda presence in the tormented Syria? The idea is scary and al-Qaeda is the West’s bogeyman but not Israel’s. Al-Qaeda avoids the confrontation with Israelis despite its numerous anti-Jewish rants. Israel knows that Hezbollah, al-Qaeda, Hamas, nor the previous Palestinian red factions such as Abu Nidal and the Popular Front are threatening its security; they were just a source nuisance. The balance of power is always in Israel’s favor as the Jewish state always wins the war in the end. Israel has also fortified itself through building secure borders. Israel has built a long fence separating the West Bank and will build another one with Egypt. It will also build “Israel’s great wall” from the Golan’s side, separating Israel and Syria.
Tel Aviv did not release any information or suggestion regarding its role in Syria, but we know that this is the most serious war on its borders and it directly affects its security. Therefore, it is impossible for Israel to stand still.
Little has been said after Israeli leader’s return from Russia. Israeli President Shimon Peres said that they were against any foreign military intervention, but at the same time, they supported the idea of sending Arab troops to enforce peace in Syria! Peres certainly knows that the international intervention needs one week to topple al-Assad’s regime, but the Arab intervention will make the war last for years. This absurd notion of sending Arab troops - also recommended by Arab League - doesn’t identity which Arab troops, or how they will be send.
I imagine that Israel is influenced the Western and Russian opinion in dealing with the events in Syria. It is probably behind the renunciation of their interests and threats regarding al-Assad regime. Israelis see four possibilities for ending the Syrian tragedy: First, the fall of the regime and the establishment of an alternative drained regime by the opposition on a destroyed and scorched territory. The second possibility is the fall of the regime with the ongoing civil war and without a strong central government, similar to Somalia. The third possibility is that al-Assad and his clique will flee to the coast and will announce the separation and the establishment of an Allawite mini-state, and thus the battles between the Syrians will continue. The last possibility, unlikely to happen, is that the situation will remain as it is and al-Assad will stay in Damascus and the opposition will be fighting against him; this situation will loiter for a very long time.
These four possibilities serve Israel. The option that does not suit Israel was the international intervention a year ago and toppling al-Assad’s regime and the establishment of a new one to be internationally supported based on democracy. Israel knows that this will make Syria a stronger neighbor, since it has a population three times larger than Israel’s and especially if it is endorsed with a real popular regime.
This article was first published in Asharq Alawsat on Jan. 28, 2013.
(Abdelrahman AlRashed is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq Al- Awsat where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq Al-Awsat’s sister publication, Al Majalla. Throughout his career, AlRashed has interviewed several world-leaders whilst his articles provoked worldwide recognition and has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly-regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.)